Is God Sovereign Over Death?

This past weekend, I preached on God’s sovereignty in the face of death and tragedy. While it is hard to comprehend how God is good, yet sovereign over the tragic deaths of those we love, the Bible tells us both are true. To help us in our thinking, below is a section of a paper I wrote in response to Open Theism, the belief that God lacks sovereignty over all situations.

A modern day assault on God and his nature is Open Theism. The open theist believes that “God can’t foreknow the good or bad decisions of the people He creates until He creates these people and they, in turn, create their decisions.(1)” This is a serious departure from the orthodox view held by the Christian church for the last two thousand years.

Open Theism has arisen as an attempt by some theologians (such as Gregory Boyd and John Sanders) to respond to passages in the Bible where it appears that God has changed his mind or made a mistake. Their hope is that this open view of God would provide hope in the face of tragedy because they believe God did not see the tragedy coming. This hope does not materialize because God’s inability to handle the future wipes away the only hope that can be possessed by those who are wounded and grieving (Gen. 50:20). That is the hope that God’s sovereignty is able to bring good out of the tragedy.

The testimony of Scripture is clearly that God governs all the events in the universe and he does this without sin nor without removing man’s responsibility for his actions. The Bible teaches that God works all things in conformity with the purpose of his will. This includes the rolling of dice (Prov. 16:33), falling sparrows (Matt. 10:29), failing sight (Ex. 4:11), financial loss (1 Sam. 2:7), the decisions of kings (Prov. 21:1), the sickness of children (2 Sam. 12:15), the suffering and slaughter of saints (1 Peter 4:19; Psalm 44:11), repentance (2 Tim. 2:25), faith (Phil. 1:29), life and death (1 Sam. 2:6) and the crucifixion of Christ (Acts 4:27-28). The testimony of Scripture is that from the smallest element to the greatest event God governs all for his wise, just, and good purposes (Isa. 16:10).

(1) Gregory Boyd, in Gregory A. Boyd and Edward K. Boyd, Letters from a Skeptic: A Son Wrestles with His Father’s Questions About Christianity (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor, 1994), 30
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